Refreshing Video on Teen’s Mental Illness Wins Top Prize

Becca Calla has overcome a dark, difficult past and found beauty in her story.

Calla lives with Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sometimes, people have a hard time understanding her behavior. But now, she’s learned to release energy in healthy ways. She’s a kick-ass violin player, for example.

With the two-minute video below, Calla’s classmates Natasha Boshoff and Suaad Issa won Children’s Mental Health Ontario‘s 2014 Change the View Anti-Stigma Film Fest.

“Ask anyone that knows me now,” she says in the clip. “I’m the happiest girl because I know I’m getting the right support and help I need.”


It's OK to Lose Yourself as a Momma

I used to be that person — that girl.

You know, the one who always said I’d never lose myself, the one who got irritated trying to have a conversation with a friend with what sounded like a daycare in the background, the one who rolled her eyes when another friend was too tired to come out for a girls night, the one who promised herself that my children wouldn’t consume me.

Well, hello delusional, judgmental, not-a-clue-in-the-world gal before babes — Welcome to Mommyhood. How’s it feel now?

I’m so far gone in the direction I thought I wouldn’t be, that I might just be the biggest hypocrite to walk the planet. Well, maybe not the biggest, but truly, I am obsessed with my little hooligans and absolutely lost myself somewhere between the constant snuggles and peeing while getting cheered on by a toddler.

But you know what? It’s OK.

It’s OK to be consumed for awhile. Awhile will be gone before you know it. Every day a small part of me aches when a new word is said, a shoe doesn’t fit or a snuggle is shortened.

mom with two kids

It’s OK to be so utterly tired you don’t know what day it is, you can only tell the time by what is on “Treehouse TV” and you haven’t showered in days.

mom holding up baby

It’s OK to not want to go out past your kids’ bedtime because the thought of getting out of your yoga pants, being up past 11 and finding a sitter is exhausting.

mom sitting with two kids

It’s OK to only have real phone conversations with friends when driving around and around in your minivan to keep your leeches , children physically off you, so you can actually talk.

mom kissing baby

It’s OK to have beans and toast for dinner because the thought of lugging more than one child to the grocery store is an event in itself, let alone the task of making dinner.

mom sitting with two kids

It’s OK that you take 76 pictures a day of your kids because to you, they are your world, and the pride you feel for them is like none other.

mom and baby laughing

It’s OK to find unbelievable happiness in watching and nurturing something you made.

mom hugging two kids

It’s OK, mommas, to lose yourself. Yourself is not, nor can it ever be what it once was. Embrace it. Grow with it. Love it.

mom holding baby

Soon enough you’ll have that time to reconnect with your old self again, but don’t be scared if she’s different. She’s bound to be Stronger. Wiser. Kinder. Funnier. She now knows a love unlike any other — a love so fierce it’s impelled to consume what she once was.

So as I reflect on Mother’s Day, as much as I loved my old self and as my hooligans grow up, I’m sure pieces of her will come back. I have to say I’ve never loved me more and that’s because of what becoming a momma did to me.

Happy Momma’s Day, friends. Hope you feel loved beyond.

This post was originally published on the Happy Soul Project.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a thank-you letter to someone you never expected you’d thank. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

40 Boys Put on Suits to Stand Up for Their Friend. It Worked.

Jennifer Keefe’s 10-year-old son, Timothy, came home from school last November and asked his mom to take him out to buy a suit.

Keefe was taken aback. She was used to her 6-year-old son, Danny, wearing suits — he’d been attached to them since the Christmas before, when his mom bought him a red shirt and black jacket. But Timothy never showed any interest in dressing up.

“Ten-year-old boys like to wear Under Armor and sweatshirts,” Keefe recalls. “I asked him why he needed a suit.”

“We’re all wearing them,” he said, “to show Danny we support him.”

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Kids at school often bullied Danny — they didn’t understand why he wore a dress shirt or fedora each day, and they didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk. Danny has apraxia of speech, a motor disorder that makes it difficult for him to communicate. Kids would go up to him and ask, “Why can’t you talk? Just talk.” He’d come home from school distraught.

But a group of the boys on the Bridgewater Badgers’ football team, where Danny is the official water manager, wouldn’t stand for this. Their solution? A “Danny Appreciation Day,” where they would all imitate Danny’s suave style and proudly go to school. In the Life Is Good video below, you can watch scenes from that day — more than 40 boys wore suits. Danny led the march.

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“It could have turned ugly. The boys could have gone to the playground and said, ‘Who’s doing this to you? Where are they?'” Keefe told The Mighty. “But instead they responded in this very adult-like, peaceful way. It was all about love and support.”

Nearly six months later, Danny confidently walks around the school hallways. No one picks on him anymore, his mom says.

“It’s kind of the opposite now,” Keefe told The Mighty. “Kids go up to him and say, ‘Hey, you’re the kid from TV!'”

Family friends have also started a fundraiser to help the Keefes afford Danny’s expensive speech therapies. Out of the 100 sessions he needs this year, insurance will only cover about 15, Keefe says. It’s a battle she downplays, though — her son’s happiness is a priority.

“Danny started crying when he saw everyone in suits that day,” Keefe recalls. “He was only 6 but it was like he understood the magnitude of what happened. I’m just so thankful the parents in my community raised such kind young men.”

Watch Danny’s story in this Life Is Good video, directed by Tim O’Donnell:

An Open Letter to a Child With Autism, From a Teacher

Dear ________,

You may not know it, but you are on my mind more than you may think.  I think about you all the time. I see you. I want to help. I try to honor your inner landscape and intervene, not overpower. I try to talk with you, not at you. That’s why I do what I do; for you, with you, and with the others who care so much about you. Just like I do.

What do I do with you? I work to create a breadcrumb trail for you to follow, each and every day. Even if it seems unnecessary or confusing. Even if the intervention is “repetitive” or “not working”. I eagerly count each success and fiercely guard each disappointment I feel, so that you don’t get discouraged when things are hard. I’m aware of your attempts to reach out, to learn, to understand, and to make sense of the world around you. I’m aware that it can be a fun yet scary place, and that it’s hard sometimes to “fit in”. I try to watch out for you and cater to your strengths and preferences, while being mindful of your challenges and dislikes. I cherish our time together and each triumph, each smile, laugh, and word. I relish the unique mindset and skill set you demonstrate, and each opportunity to help you expand your horizons.

That’s why I use a combination of toys and technology, of free play and structured activities, and spontaneous conversation and elicited question and answer sessions, at different times, to help you learn to:

  • Better orient to person/place/time so you can stay “grounded” longer and more frequently and learn to sequence events and anticipate outcomes
  • Develop a sense of humor so that you can take constructive criticism and transition better, and “bounce back” more easily when things don’t go as planned
  • Categorize and group like/unalike objects and pictures and explain why? so that you get “organized in your head” and understand what “a place for everything and everything in its place” really means
  • Manage your stress levels and sensitivity to things like texture, sound, light, changes in routine etc. so that you can communicate your wants/needs and displeasure in a way we can understand and accept, and you can better problem solve how to “talk yourself away from the ledge” and let others know how you feel.

So I make seemingly random comments and suggestions to you and your family. I suggest that you do things you may want or not want to,  like (under supervision!)

  • Spending time playing with other children outside in a playground
  • Spending time reading books/stories about others and their feelings
  • Spending time learning to use specific iPad Apps
  • Spending time completing chores at home
  • Spending time with animals and/or caring for a pet
  • Spending time taking mini-road trips and outings around the neighborhood

I know, I know, you may think I’m pushy. I admit that I’m trying to teach you lots and lots. But I have a secret to share… have already taught me so much more than I could ever teach you! Each and every encounter I have with you enriches my life, and makes me realize things about myself, about the world, that I never knew! I also never knew how much patience and love my heart could hold, or how creative I can get with my lesson and daily planner!

Thank you for being you, and for giving me the opportunity to see who you really are. Thank you for trying so hard and for not giving up on me. I won’t give up on you. We’re in this together, and I can’t wait to see what you do next!


This post originally appeared on Friendship Circle.

Couple With Cerebral Palsy Finds an Awesome Way to Get to Prom

Why take a limo to prom when you can arrive in this fashion?

When Kelsie Levad and her boyfriend, AJ Novotny, couldn’t find a vehicle that accommodated wheelchairs to bring them to their pre-prom dinner, the Arvada Fire Department in Arvada, Colo., stepped in.

Firefighters offered to take the teens, who both have cerebral palsy, in a firetruck. Neither AJ, who volunteers at the station every week, nor Kelsey knew the plan until the night of prom. They’d shown up thinking they were just taking pictures in front of the trucks. Afterwards, the Arvada team broke the news.

“It was exciting for all of us to see the joy in his face,” AJ’s para-educator, Dianna Boyer, told TODAY. “They were beside themselves.”

Man With Down Syndrome Sings National Anthem at Red Sox Game, Knocks It Out of the Park

Michael Mullins is moving up to the big leagues.

For the last 10 years, Mullins, who has Down syndrome, has been performing “The Star Spangled-Banner” for the Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor league baseball team in Pawtucket, R.I., according to The Metro West Daily News. Finally, with the help of the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center, the Boston Red Sox gave Mullins, now 38, the chance to sing the national anthem at Fenway Park. On Thursday, May 1, in front of more than 35,000 fans, Mullins put on the performance of a lifetime (below).

“No, I’m not nervous,” he told WCVB before the game. “Piece of cake.”

He certainly didn’t make it look hard.

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